Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz was hoping to add a third Kings Royal victory to his illustrious list of accomplishments but came up just short in the 32nd annual Kings Royal at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway early Sunday morning. The 2007 and 2009 Kings Royal champion drove a flawless race aboard the TSR No. 15 Bad Boy Buggies/Chevrolet Performance J&J and held the lead with three laps remaining when his machine ran out of fuel.
While coasting to complete lap 38, Schatz was contacted by another car, which brought out a yellow and ultimately a fuel-stop for the field. Schatz restarted seventh and would finish sixth. It was a frustrating end to a weekend that had so much promise for Schatz and his Bad Boy Buggies/Chevrolet Performance team that included racing from fifth to second in Friday’s Knight Before the Kings Royal World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Cars Series A-Feature, qualifying fifth in the field of 58 cars Saturday, earning a front-row starting position by putting on a driving clinic in heat five, and leading 30 laps of one the sport’s biggest races of the season.
“We all wanted to come out on top Saturday, but you have to move on,” said Schatz, the six-time and reigning WoO champion. “We can’t undo it now. All we can do is move forward. I have to thank my team Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Eric Prutzman. Those guys put an incredible car underneath me all weekend. They never give up and we went out there and had an unbelievable chance. This couldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for Tony (Stewart) and the people he puts around us. There were a lot of people at Eldora this weekend from Bad Boy Buggies and Chevrolet who are really behind us. Special thanks to all those fans that stuck around to see us race at 4 a.m. We’re ready to get back to work on Tuesday at Lernerville.”
Schatz entered the weekend as one of the favorites following his previous two WoO victories at Eldora in May. He began the weekend by qualifying ninth in his group before winning the sixth heat race to grab a spot in the dash. He advanced from 10th to fifth in the dash and started the 30-lap A-Feature in the sixth row. After running sixth for the first eight laps, Schatz climbed to fourth on lap nine. He made some strong moves around the top during laps 15 and 16 to take the third spot and then grabbed second from Sammy Swindell on lap 24. Schatz did everything he could during the final five laps to close the gap on leader Shane Stewart but wasn’t able to grab the top spot and instead came home second for the seventh time in 2015.
The Kings Royal traditionally opens Sprint-car racing’s ‘Month of Money’ and 58 drivers were on hand to take their shot at the $50,000 top prize. Mother Nature was also part of the show, which has been part of the tradition more times than not during Kings Royal weekend. Schatz began his night by qualifying fifth overall before a severe storm hit the track and caused a delay in the program. Just after 1 a.m., the heat races were pushed off. In the first four heats, the winner started on the front row but, in heat five, Schatz didn’t have that luxury. He started fifth and methodically worked his way into second and then tracked down leader Lee Jacobs on the final lap to take the heat win. With the unique Kings Royal format, that heat win put Schatz on the front row for the 40-lap main event.
Schatz shared the front row with Tim Shaffer, who led the first five laps. Schatz seized control and set a blistering pace on a surface that was still locked down and absorbing all the Chevrolet power available to Schatz. He built several commanding leads that were cut into by a number a yellows. When the field stopped on lap 35 following a flip by third-place-running Christopher Bell, the race was extremely close to the maximum number of green and yellow laps allowed combined before a mandatory fuel stoppage. The cars were refired and Schatz pulled out to another strong lead when Joey Saldana crashed into the turn-one wall. Following a few more caution laps, Schatz raced back to the lead with Stewart in second. Heading into turn three, Schatz’s car began to dramatically slow, allowing Stewart to grab the top spot.
The TSR team will return to action Tuesday looking to add to its 20 wins on the season at the Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pennsylvania. The unique event offers two 30-lap A-Features and a Silver Cup crown awarded to the driver who wins either of the races and has the top average finish between the two race winners. Schatz is a five-time Silver Cup winner and is looking to make it three consecutive victories Tuesday night.